23 January 1998

Labelling GM food vital, says Safeway

Supermarket demands, production costs and agronomy

advice were discussed at the annual Yorkshire Arable Group

conference. Alan Barker reports

FOOD safety is at the top of the supermarket agenda, so rigorous quality assurance of imports and careful labelling of GM crops are vital.

That was the message Nigel Garbutt, research and development controller for the Safeway supermarket chain, had for the ADAS Yorkshire arable conference at Askham Bryan college.

While acknowledging the potential benefits of GM crops, he stressed the customer must decide their role in UK food production. "We are here to sell products, not technologies," he said.

Major food manufacturers and retailers will label foods containing GM maize and soya protein, even though that could affect up to 2000 products, he said.

Furthermore, Safeway is spending millions of £s on quality assurance, with 100 food technologists travelling the world to ensure equal standards are applied wherever produce is sourced.

Applying a single standard in the UK Europe and beyond means growers have a level playing field, he insisted.

Fresh produce imports are subject to the same quality assurance checks as UK grown crops – Nigel Garbutt, Safeway.